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My Son doesn’t want to Study! What to do to solve a Problem of School Motivation?

SCHOOL MOTIVATION IS A FUNDAMENTAL PREREQUISITE FOR SUCCESSFUL LEARNING. HOWEVER, IF MY CHILD DOES NOT WANT TO STUDY, HOW CAN I INTERVENE TO INCREASE IT? IF MY CHILD DOES NOT WANT TO STUDY, WHAT ARE THE MOST EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES TO INTERVENE? WE SEE IT TOGETHER!

Today we will specifically analyze motivational factors and see them together:

  • What is motivation;
  • What are the variables that determine school motivation;
  • What are the strategies that can be used to promote school motivation if my child does not want to study.

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MY CHILD DOES NOT WANT TO STUDY! WHAT TO DO: SCHOOL MOTIVATION AS A PREREQUISITE FOR LEARNING

Motivation is a fundamental variable and a basic prerequisite for any form of learning: if there is no motivation, I will hardly succeed in learning new concepts and skills.

To better understand the role of motivation I propose this example:

try to imagine the last time you were forced to follow an explanation of a subject you didn’t care about and didn’t see any use for…

  • How was your experience during the explanation?
  • What do you remember about that explanation?
  • How effective was your learning?
  • What did you learn?

From this simple example we can see clearly what is the role of motivation in learning.

Without motivation there can be no attention, perseverance and depth of elaboration of the concept they are presenting to us.

Moreover, on the emotional level the tones are “grey” and the experience, the learning experience, is negative.

Moreover, negative experiences and experiences are avoided by people and the younger the person is, like their child, the more difficult it is to manage these mechanisms!

So, if there is no motivation there can be no quality learning and the person cannot give the best.

These principles are equally valid for school motivation and if my child doesn’t want to study it is precisely on this motivation that one must actively act.

Furthermore, emotional experiences and experiences must be taken into account: if my child does not want to study it is because the school context has been progressively associated as a negative stimulus and experience from which he does not draw any incentive.

Let us therefore keep in mind the character of a prerequisite for learning school motivation: in no way can good results be achieved at school and the positive experiences associated with it in the absence of motivation.

MY CHILD DOES NOT WANT TO STUDY! WHAT TO DO: THE VARIABLES UNDERLYING THE CONCEPT OF SCHOOL MOTIVATION

Before we see together in which are the strategies that can be used to foster school motivation, we will analyse together the concept of motivation and what are the variables behind it.

If my child does not feel like studying, what variables and sub-components do I need to analyse in detail to understand how to intervene?

The level of motivation is linked to the combination and interaction of two types of expectations:

  • the expectation of effectiveness;
  • the expectation of outcome.

The expectation of effectiveness consists in the belief to be able to perform a certain task, to have all the necessary skills, in the belief to “live up to the situation”.

The expectation of result, on the other hand, is the belief that, once I have completed a specific task, I will have access to incentives, advantages or positive consequences for me.

To maintain a high level of motivation I need both the expectation of effectiveness and the expectation of result.

If even one of the two is not present at the appropriate level, motivation is compromised. For example, if I have to do a math exercise and I am convinced that I don’t have the basic skills and abilities to do it, then the expectation of effectiveness, the confidence in my ability to do it, and consequently the motivation is compromised.

Or, if at the same math exercise I am convinced that I have all the skills to do it correctly but at the same time I am also convinced that, because of my disagreements with the teacher, I have been targeted and he will give me a negative grade in any case, then the expectation of result is compromised.

In this case I know that I have the skills but in any case the grade will be negative and therefore there will be no advantages or incentives for the correct execution of the task.

In this case, even if the expectation of effectiveness is present, the expectation of result is not present because I give a judgment of futility to my commitment and the motivation is compromised.

Suggested read: If Your Child Can Read, But Doesn’t Want To

MY SON DOESN’T WANT TO STUDY! WHAT TO DO: THE IMPORTANCE OF RECOVERING INCENTIVES AND ASSOCIATING SCHOOL WITH A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE

Once I have verified that there are no problems in terms of basic cognitive skills (reasoning, reading, writing, calculating, …), to encourage motivation I must necessarily intervene on the expectations of result and therefore on the incentives that are associated with the school.

A classic example of the fact that the problem is not at the level of skills is when the interview with teachers is reported to the parent who:

“…the child/boyfriend is very intelligent but does not apply enough…”

“…it’s a shame he’d throw himself away doing nothing because he’d have all the skills…”

Or, another example is when for all elementary or middle schools there were no performance problems and, all of a sudden, there is a sudden drop in performance.

In these cases, for example, it is evident that basic skills are present and that the performance problem is caused by other factors: emotional and/or motivational.

Often, when it is a problem of motivation that determines the difficulties at school, the person has associated the school as an absolutely negative stimulus and cannot bring up any incentive for school commitment:

  • the results are negative;
  • when I get home, of course, mum and dad are not happy, so when it comes to school, the results are negative;
  • the relationship with the teachers is getting worse;
  • I’m also getting a little behind, so whether I do or don’t do it, I’ll have a hard time getting the results back.

With these premises it is evident that the school is associated as something absolutely negative and, in these phases, every occasion will be good to leave the school.

At the same time, since the person’s behaviour and motivation are governed by incentives, the child or boy will look for those few things that still give him or her incentives.

School will be avoided as much as possible as it is possible with negative stimuli and the pupil will focus on video games, going out with friends, playing games, … doing anything other than books, notebooks or studying.

Moreover, in this phase vicious circles are established because the more I lose motivation and bring home failures, the more I lose incentive and therefore school motivation.

The more my child doesn’t want to study, the more he will have failures that will compromise school motivation even more.

At this stage, a further “side effect” is related to the impairment of parent-child relationships and the family climate due to problems with school performance.

Concerned parents, in good faith and moved by good intentions, try to “take the reins of the situation” but the tension is high and therefore it slips into a lot of explanations, reprimands, contrasts, … and so the child, in addition to having already associated the school as something negative, realizes that the school is also compromising the family climate.

When we propose to him to do his homework and insist that he tries harder, for him homework is associated with all these negative aspects and therefore his natural reaction will be nothing but avoidance.

If my child doesn’t feel like studying, the solution to recover school motivation is to turn the situation around and gradually associate the school with positive incentives and stimuli.

MY SON DOESN’T WANT TO STUDY! WHAT TO DO: REPLACE NEGATIVE INCENTIVES AND EXPERIENCES WITH POSITIVE INCENTIVES AND STIMULI

At first we saw that motivation is a fundamental prerequisite for learning, so until I can recover it, there is no way I will be able to bring home tangible results and solve my problem with the school.

  • If my child does not want to study it is because school has been associated as a negative stimulus: to solve the problem I have to turn the situation around.
  • If the school has been associated with negative stimuli that have eroded school motivation, I will slowly have to associate incentives, positive stimuli, with the school commitment.
  • Now we will see together the strategies that we, as Studio Sofisma, use in the studio with our specific taking charge of the difficulties at school to intervene in school motivation.

Obviously, the basic variables and key concepts are the same for any parent who wants to begin to encourage their child’s motivation right away.

We always remember that the key variable to act on motivation is to make sure that the school, associated with a negative stimulus, is associated with a whole series of positive incentives to go to recover the expectations of result and consequently the school motivation.

MY SON DOESN’T WANT TO STUDY! WHAT TO DO: INTERVENTION STRATEGIES AND OPERATIONAL TIPS TO RECOVER SCHOOL MOTIVATION

The operational strategies to recover school motivation can be divided into three phases to be implemented in the following order:

Implement a work session (homework/study) on a daily basis;
implementing a guide of your child in each work session with the aim of modulating the difficulty of the task and verifying the maintenance of commitment and attention;
use the implemented work session to introduce as many incentives as possible and have them associated with the school commitment.
Below we will go into the three phases of the procedure with the criteria to follow for their correct implementation.

MY CHILD DOES NOT WANT TO STUDY! WHAT TO DO: OPERATIONAL PHASE 1 – IMPLEMENTATION WORK SESSION

If my child does not feel like studying, the first step is to intervene in school motivation and to implement work sessions (homework or study sessions as appropriate) on a daily basis.

On each day there should be a session of as constant a duration as possible in order to distribute the work as much as possible and make these sessions as short as possible.

In addition, with such regularity, there are learning opportunities on each day to combine school commitment with a range of incentives.

In these cases the objections of the parent are:

“…my child will certainly not work every day even if I tell him to implement these homework sessions!”

“It won’t do any good because he won’t listen to me even if I tell him to study.”

The motivation is gone, so obviously he won’t start working on his own every day even if we tell him so!

Paradoxically, if he followed the directions in this way, the problem would have been solved long ago.

In order to successfully implement the working sessions in this first phase it is necessary to impose oneself with strength and decision, using specific educational strategies of contingency management.

In the studio, within our specific taking charge of school difficulties, this first phase is introduced through “Parent Training” sessions in which educational indications are agreed with the parents so that all the incentives and things that the child likes are used as an exchange currency to tie him/her to the work session.

Remember that if my child does not want to study it is because the school motivation has been lost and therefore in a first phase a strong and directive imposition is indispensable because the child needs to be guided.

If he did not need to be guided, he would have already found a solution to the school problem by now!

For an example of applying these contingency management strategies to implement a work session on a daily basis we refer you to Luca’s case that you can find the articles on our website.

Implementing the work session is not easy and it’s a delicate phase, but you can’t even ignore this step because if there isn’t the slightest commitment in the school and all he does is avoid books and notebooks, how will I manage to make him associate incentives with the school commitment?

If I don’t proceed in this way, I don’t even have the learning opportunities to turn the situation around and make the school conditional on positive incentives!

MY SON DOES NOT WANT TO STUDY! WHAT TO DO: OPERATIONAL PHASE 2 – SUPPORT AND GUIDANCE IN THE WORK SESSION

The second step is to follow, accompany and support the child or boy in the work sessions.

The main objective of supporting him/her in this phase is to ensure that he/she experiences, in the protected context of the set work session, the incentive for success resulting from his/her commitment to a school-related task.

To ensure that he can say:

“I can do it!”

“if I commit myself to the exercise.”

When supporting him in these work sessions we must try to put absolutely aside all the negativity associated with the school situation.

We have to make the child or boy perceive these work sessions as if we were playing a board game, a puzzle game, a crossword puzzle, … a performance in which “ok I have to commit myself” but which has to be kept somehow disconnected from all the discomfort and negative stimuli that have been associated with the school.

We need to turn this work session into a moment of demand for performance as positive as possible in order to associate the school commitment and the exercises with something positive, with the incentive to “succeed”.

At this stage we need to bring a lot of attention and emphasis to the relationship so that the climate remains relaxed and there is a calm and relaxed relationship.

If we are tense or angry then the relationship with your child is compromised and as a result I am also compromising the working session.

Let’s always remember that the basic objective is to associate the school commitment with positive incentives: the incentive of “I can do” is what we have to favour with our guidance in this second phase!

Obviously the child or boy can be followed by his parents, a relative or an external support figure (educator, professional, homework support, …).

MY CHILD DOES NOT WANT TO STUDY! WHAT TO DO: OPERATIONAL PHASE 3 – ASSOCIATE AS MANY INCENTIVES AS POSSIBLE TO THE WORK SESSION

With the first two phases we have recreated a protected working environment, a learning opportunity in which school commitment can be associated with a whole series of positive incentives and stimuli.

In fact, in the third phase, the fundamental objective is to encourage school engagement in the work session as much as possible.

We need to make our child experience that with commitment he or she can have access to a whole range of incentives and benefits.

Some examples of the benefits we need to give him or her to experience if the work session has been carried out properly are:

  • being able to play quietly without conflict or reproach after the work session;
  • being able to go out quietly (in the case of an older child or boy);
  • verbal praise;
  • absence of criticism, reprimands and disagreements;
  • relaxed family atmosphere;
  • warm and serene relationship with mom and dad;

We need to make him experience in practice that if he puts his efforts into the school he has access to a whole range of advantages!

Even at this stage, we must remember to set aside the current negativity in the general school situation.

A classic mistake at this stage is the parent who, once the intervention procedures have started, arrives home late, is a little more tense and more irritable than usual, sees that the child is not in the books because he has already finished and snaps and says to him:

“Here, what are you doing? You’re caught behind in school and the average is still not recovered! Even if you worked today you still have a lot to do!”

The parent, in doing so, has absolutely destroyed the little incentive we had associated with the school effort.

When my child does not want to study and things are not going well at school, the frustration and concern of the parent is high, however, when we slip with these reprimands and comments, how did we get closer to solving the problem?

What positive results have we achieved in doing so?

We have returned to the zero point and have associated further negative stimulation with the school theme.

When we go to implement this kind of taking charge we have seen that it is very useful to involve teachers.

If we team up with teachers we are even more able to favour this mechanism of association of incentives and advantages with the first sketches of school engagement.

MY SON DOESN’T WANT TO STUDY! WHAT TO DO: CONCLUSION

When my child doesn’t feel like studying and school motivation is compromised, implementing the three phases successfully is not easy.

However, if I can recover my school motivation I will have used my resources in the best possible way and turn them into a real investment in my child’s future and well-being.

With a good level of school motivation my child will be able to move forward in his school career with better results and a higher level of well-being and satisfaction.

For educational reasons we have analyzed the motivational factors ourselves but, of course, in a real case all the other factors have to be taken into consideration at the same time: cognitive skills, work strategies, study method and emotional factors.

In the next articles we will go deeper into the subject and we will see in detail all the other factors that lead to a problem of school difficulties.

Discover our specific service for school difficulties:

SPECIFIC SERVICE FOR SCHOOL DIFFICULTIES

If you would like more information about our services on parenting and developmental age please contact us by phone or through our website, we will be happy to provide you with any information and clarifications you may require.

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